FIRST TIP! “ICE AND SNOW, TAKE IT SLOW!”
Okay, now that we got the most important tip out of the way, let’s take a look at some other helpful driving tips for the winter season.
Before You Go Anywhere
1. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated, make sure all of your lights and signals are working, and brush/scrape ALL of the snow and ice off of your vehicle. There have been numerous incidents of snow and ice flying off of improperly cleaned vehicles that have caused injuries and other hazards including impaired visibility (snow blowing off the roofs of vehicles) while driving. If your vehicle is parked outdoors, make sure that your tailpipe is not clogged with snow, mud, ice, etc. Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer, so a clogged tailpipe could be the end of you.
2. Have a survival kit for those “just in case” moments. Your survival kit should include gloves hats, scarves, traditional blankets and and also Emergency Blankets. Those Emergency Blankets are amazing! Hand warmers (these Super Warmers last up to 18 hours!), batteries, flashlights, non perishable food (high protein and high energy foods are good options, such as dried fruits, salted nuts, beef jerky, also foods higher in sugars like hard candies), a first aid kit, road flares, reflective triangles, and brightly colored cloth or tape that you can tie to your antenna. Make sure you have a car charger for you cell phone. Most people do, but some don’t. One interesting tip that I have had good luck with is plastic ziploc bags for keeping my feet warm. Just put your foot into a gallon size plastic ziploc bag, and insert back into your boots. Your feet will be much warmer! Plastic is a very good insulator. Another good tip if your stranded is to pack your coat full of plastic shopping bags. You get them from the store for free anyway, why not make use of them? Also, wearing plastic gloves on your hands inside of your traditional gloves or mittens works wonders! Have to give credit to my Mom for the bags in boots and plastic gloves ideas. Been using these methods since I was a small boy. Jumper cables are good to have on hand as well. Lock deicer for your doors’ keyholes is also important to have.
3. Check the weather forecasts before embarking on any trips, or any time you drive for that matter. Weather forecasts can be found on your local National Weather Service websites (highest recommended source), or on your local news outlets websites/telecasts. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you absolutely must drive, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival. DO NOT trust Faulty, Flaky, Facebook Weather Forecasts as fact. More often than not, these pages contain mostly misinformation and hype, which can be dangerous to your safety.
4. Pay attention to where you are at all times. This means city names, road names, landmarks and other things. A GPS is helpful in that regard, or use the GPS on your phone. This way if something happens to you, you can tell your would be rescuers exactly where you are, so they can get to you sooner.
5. If you become stranded, do not leave your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are, exactly how far it is to possible help, and are absolutely certain that you will improve your situation. If you cannot be sure about these things, stay put until help arrives. Do not open your windows or doors more than you have to, because that will allow heat to escape.
Winter Driving Tips
1. Don’t drive in bad weather unless you absolutely have to. Your best option is to stay home if the weather is bad. If staying home is not an option, try and at least wait for the road crews to plow and salt/sand/spray the roadways before traveling.
2. Always give yourself extra time when driving in the winter. Not only because of slower travel on bad roads, but you never know where slow downs will be from accidents, etc. In the case of accidents, be sure to have an alternate route planned.
3. It’s helpful to practice some winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, to familiarize you with how your vehicle handles in slippery conditions. I practice at the beginning of the winter season in empty parking lots or way over on the vacant side of the Walmart parking lot where there isn’t anyone or anything to run into. I often practice late at night to lessen the chances of anyone being around. I do slides, spins, “fishtails”, and various braking scenarios to get the “feel” back.
4. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of room to stop, especially when in traffic. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front of you.
5. Compress your brake pedal steadily and gently, do not compress quickly or hard, as your wheels will lock up and you will go into a slide. In the event that you do end up in a slide/locked wheel situation, decompress your brake pedal, and gently compress it again to try and stop. If you have standard brakes (not anti-lock brakes) then gently pumping your brakes should be reasonable.
6. If it is snowing, raining, foggy, etc make sure to have your lights on. Low beams work best, especially in foggy situations.
7. Keep your lights and windshield clean. I suggest Rain-X products for this, as I’ve trusted them for years to keep my windshield, mirrors, headlights and taillights clean. I use Rain-X 2 in 1 Washer Fluid, Rain-X Latitude Wiper Blades, Rain-X Window Treatment (on the windshield mirrors, and the head/taillights) and on the interior windows I use Rain-X Anti-Fog. This combo of products works wonderfully, and I’ve put this assortment of products through blizzards, ice storms, extreme lake effect snow and more.
8. Try to use lower gears and/or 4 wheel drive when possible when driving on snow and ice. All wheel drive is beneficial as well.
9. DO NOT use cruise control or overdrive on slippery roads. These are handy options during the dry warm months, but they could spell disaster in inclement weather.
10. Be especially cautious when traveling across bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, often called secondary roads, which will freeze first. Even with air temperatures above freezing, if the roads are wet, you may encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges, and underneath overpasses in the shadowy areas. Also be especially cautious around intersections. When vehicles idle at intersections, they melt the residual snow and ice on the pavement. This causes icy patches all over the place when coming up to a stop light or stop sign. Be aware of these “Idle Melt” areas. They are hazardous.
11. If you’re driving and hit a slippery patch, or ice, keep your wheel as steady and straight as possible to avoid the possibility of spinning out and/or crashing. Let off the gas pedal steadily, and leave your foot off until you feel that you can regain control. Just touching the gas pedal while sliding on ice can spin you out.
12. Just because you have 4 wheel drive doesn’t make you invincible. You may be able to go faster, but that also means that something will happen to you faster. Rule of thumb, slow down, no matter what you drive. Ice and snow do not care if you have 2 wheels or 18 wheels. They are unforgiving.
13. If sliding, steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right. This is called “Steering into the slide”. It may seem like a bad idea, but it’s really not. You have a better chance of regaining control of your vehicle using this method. In the event you start to slide around more erratically, you may need to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control again. Quick or jerky movements are not recommended. Be as smooth and as steady as possible!
14. If you slide off into a ditch or get stuck in some other way, do not sit there and spin your wheels. That will just dig you in deeper and make it harder for you to get out. Instead, push the gas to move forward, then hit the brakes, put your vehicle in reverse and push the gas to go backward. This is called “Rocking”* and more often than not, you will be able to get unstuck this way by order of moving the snow, to give you more space to gain momentum when you push the gas to get yourself out. I’ve never gotten stuck (thankfully), but I have gotten other people unstuck using this method. Even in 4 wheel drive, you’ll want to be steady and methodical in trying to unstuck.
*Disclaimer: “Rocking” your vehicle can be hazardous to your transmission. I am not liable for any damages done to your vehicle if you decide to use this method. “Rocking” is a method I’ve used that works, based on personal experience. Word of advice, go easy on the transmission. Shift as smoothly as possible to help prevent any damages from occurring.
15. Always travel with a shovel, and a bag of kitty litter/sand. The larger, cheap, more gravely type works best. Also, pack some ice melt or rock salt to help melt snow and ice and provide extra traction.
16. This one may seem obvious, but you should never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage, as Carbon Monoxide will build up and could lead to injury/death. Open the garage door to allow proper ventilation before starting your vehicle.
17. Keep your gas tank at least half full if possible to avoid gas line freezes. Gas line freezes occur when moisture builds up in the lines and freezes. If this does happen, one product I have found to work wonders is HEET. The red bottle is a little pricier than the yellow bottle, but it’s worth the extra couple of dollars. I’ve used both, and I find the red bottle to work much better than the yellow bottle. It is sold all over the US in gas stations, auto parts stores, grocery stores, Walmart and more. Also sold on Amazon.com: Iso-HEET Premium Fuel-line Antifreeze Water Remover and Injector Cleaner.
18. When accelerating, compress the gas pedal steadily and slowly as to not spin your tires.
19. Drive slowly, I know I covered this earlier, but it is really important. Accelerating, braking, turning, merging, basically everything you do on the road must be done slowly and steadily in slippery conditions. Driving slowly may not be especially enjoyable, but it is certainly more enjoyable than not driving at all because you got into an accident or slide off the roadway. Take it slow, and allow extra time to get where you’re going.
20. When driving up hills, be steady on the gas, and straight with the wheel. One thing I like to do if possible, is gain a little momentum when coming up to the hill to help carry my vehicle up to the top. once at the top, slowly decompress the gas pedal, and make your way steadily down the other side. If you feel you may be gaining too much momentum VERY CAREFULLY and gently touch the brakes. I mean, barely. Avoid it if you can, but even I have had to do this before. It’s tricky though, so use it as a last resort.
21. Absolutely do NOT stop in the middle of roadways. This is very dangerous, it compromises the safety of everyone around you, including yourself, and will cause traffic jams, that will hamper the efforts of safety personnel such as police, firefighters, and EMTs. If you must stop, be sure to pull to the side of the road, off the road, or into a parking lot area. The key is to keep the roadways as passable as possible.
Some of these tips are based on personal experiences, others are just things I’ve learned over the years. My goal is to help you be safer on the roadways, and make sure that you are prepared for anything that might come your way this winter season. With all of this in mind, I wish you all the safest or travels, and do feel free to share these tips with your friends and family to help keep them safe this winter season. 🙂
*Disclaimer: I am not liable or responsible for anything that transpires between you, your vehicle, and other vehicles, etc. I am simply sharing tips for safety based on my own experiences, real world scenarios, and sharing my own recommendations for products which I have used and have had success with. I am not sponsored or endorsed by any of the products linked within this article.